“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” ~ Mason Cooley
Never, in my memory, have books and reading been a more important parenting support than they are now! We are heading into the second winter of the pandemic. If this wasn’t hard enough, we are doing it with depleted parenting energy, needier children and fewer than ever parent supports. Reading aloud to our children may well be our family sanity saver. If you are already a “reads-aloud-a-lot” family, I have some great new ideas for you. If becoming a reads-aloud-a-lot family will be new to you, these resources will be an extra great support. If we’re all going to make it through to spring, family reading is the ticket to our destination.
Once, when I did an interview about the Book Fairy Pantry Project, I talked about reading aloud together as an oasis in the day. When I looked up the definition of oasis for this article, I found two that fit. One said, oasis: a refuge, relief or pleasant contrast from something difficult or unpleasant. The other said, a place of calm in the midst of chaos. I’m sharing both because, depending on the day, family-read-aloud time might be either or both. Now that the school libraries and the public libraries are open again (it sure feels good to say that!) reading is, once again, a free family activity. A weekly trip to the library can be a little outing, and also supply your family with the only tickets they need to visit anywhere on the planet and beyond.
The books that take you places, that come most readily to my mind, are Magic Tree Housebooks, by Mary Pope Osborne. “The Magic Tree House series transport kids through time and around the world, teaching history while stirring the imagination.”
I first learned of the Magic Tree House books 10 years ago when my youngest grandson was listening to them, entranced, on audiobook whenever we went anywhere in the car. This brings me to the five reasons why I love them.
The first reason is, Mary Pope Osborne is a master storyteller. When we were listening to her stories, no one said a word because we were so absorbed. They were just as captivating to me, as an adult who had never heard them, as to the 4 to 10-year-olds they are recommended for.
The second is that many of the books are available on audiobook. This means that, not only are they great for car rides, the whole family can listen to the stories together at home while parents get a break from reading aloud.
The third reason is that I love to share fiction and nonfiction with children. The Magic Tree House series includes 54 books and 44 Fact Trackers. The Fact Trackers are resource guides that match the stories so children can learn more about the story topic. The fourth reason is the gender balance. Daughters and sons love them equally. The main characters, Jack and Annie (we called them Jack and Annie books) are a brother and sister who share the adventures together. The fifth reason is their availability, which is near and dear to my Book Fairy heart. The Magic Tree House books have been so popular for 25 years that you can frequently find them for a dollar or less at resale stores. And… ”Mary Pope Osborne developed a Gift of Books program in order to get books directly into the hands of children….Educators from Title 1 eligible schools are eligible to apply for a grant to get Magic Tree House books for their classrooms.”
The really fun part of making family-read-aloud time part of your recipe for family sanity, is getting creative about coming up with activities to make the books come alive. If you are reading to birth to five-year-olds, it can be as simple as looking at the moon out the window, or better yet, outside, when you read Goodnight Moon. You can bake chocolate chip cookies on the day/ night you read Chocolate Chippo Hippo, and how about reading books in all the places mentioned in my new children’s book, Please Read To Me? (Blatant plug by author) When you start to think of your read-aloud stories as activity recipes, reading becomes more than storytime.
There are things in life that are not ours to change, but let’s change the things we can. Reading to children changes their lives forever for the better. Children who are read to early and often learn to love books. Children who love books usually have the easiest time learning to read. Children who read easily learn to love reading. Children who love reading can learn anything they are interested in. Best of all parents and children who read together daily create a strong connection that can help them endure through hard times. These are hard times, books can’t change that. But books can make our hard times easier.